In some ways, the idea that we need to have a day to celebrate women or a month, March is Women in History Month, seems ridiculous.
Women should be celebrated all the time. There should be equal ideas and equal opportunities. Although men and women are different, the possibilities should not be different or limited because one person is female.
I focus on women and their achievements daily. I serve to inspire young women to be their best selves, be what they dream. What is difficult in this pursuit is the fact that young women cannot see or know someone who does or is in reality, what they dream. Role models are invaluable, but not always possible. In school, students see teachers who are women, administrators who are women, counselors who are women and maybe some other assorted professions who are women. Although a field trip or special seminar may put female students in contact with female scientists and engineers, doctors, lawyers or judges, it is not a part of their daily routine. As a result of this lack of exposure, students tend to rely on their role models for an example. Whatever a parent, an aunt or a cousin does, may only be what seems real.
Recently I began a segment of my STEAM class called Career Spotlight. Because this school is largely at-risk students of diverse background, I focus on successful women, past and present, in science and engineering. (I do not mean to ignore the many other incredible professions, we are STEM/STEAM school, thus the focus.) Women are underrepresented generally in the science and mathematics professions, but Hispanic and African American women are REALLY underrepresented. I began to explore why this is, including the obvious given lack of higher educational opportunities. Many Engineers are first generation college. It is a well-known given that this is a ticket out. But what about the young women? Are they forward thinking? Or, stuck in the mold of what they see?
Women have the privilege to straddle several roles in life, expanding on the possibilities of experience. A woman can be a nurturer and care-giver as a parent and at the same time be a business woman or physician. I did not say it is easy to figure out this balance, and maybe one can’t do all of these things at one time. However, a woman’s life can include a tapestry of experience. If a young woman sees her mother who had children at a very young age, being a caretaker or perhaps cleaning person as a job, maybe she won’t realize that may not be her destiny. As teachers, mothers and advocates for women, I believe we must stand up and shout to all the young women about finding their potential and following their heart. The choices are there and must be open alternatives.
I am not suggesting that I have no respect for a woman who stays at home and chooses this option and likes it. I am advocating the options and the choice as valid. Young women have to know what the possibilities are. They don’t have to be nurses or teachers, and I realize now that women are well represented in may professions such as physicians and lawyers. BUT, Women can be computer scientists and aerospace engineers, astronauts and physicists.
I understand how hard it is to show this world to young women when all the females they see around them are not any of these things. I suggest it is our job to open those doors and find those experiences. Celebrate the women in history and their fabulous accomplishments and at the same time, show those opportunities as reality to our young women.